Friday, February 19, 2016
Vigee-Lebrun at the Metropolitan Museum
I had one of my Museum days today. I'd been wanting to go for weeks and weeks, and it was cold and only a little sunny, but I caught the 10:06 to Penn Station, then a C train uptown, walked across the park past the Delacorte Theater and the Great Lawn, enjoying little dogs in fat yellow down jackets and lots of families with children (New York Schools seem to be on winter break), then to the Museum, busy with families too, an interesting display of American vessels and ceramic houses from the Andes and Meso America, lunch at the ever delightful Petrie Court looking out at the obelisk and people biking and running, and finally a long session with an audio guide at a large and excellent Louise-Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun exhibit. Yes, she was a royalist, hired by Marie-Antoinette herself, but also a consummate professional, famous for conversing and even singing so that the people sitting for her
were relaxed and happy. All portraits of aristocrats, first in France, then in Rome and Russia, and all with the strawberry pout Rococo style, but with the Audio guide I began to distinguish: to see where she had changed the rules a little, to see her self as she did portraits to sell herself, and also portraits of her daughter who was the great love of her life, not her husband! Harrowing experience fleeing France.
She was a woman who worked, however, from her teens on, and painted sympathetic portraits of all the women, including courtesans, who came her way--except maybe an ugly portrayal of Germaine de Stael. I wonder what the story is there. I've ordered a little book of pictures and background off the Internet and downloaded her Memoir from Gutenberg.